How well do we pay the teachers of our children? Are they over paid? Are they under paid? Do they work too hard? Do they get too much time off? Do those who ‘can’t do, teach?’ Four studies (by left and right leaning think-tanks alike) have reached four different conclusions based on the merits of teachers, the ‘work hours,’ and the education. However, there still seems to be no firm realization or agreement.
To learn more about the study, see the Article in the Atlantic.
Anyone who has met me knows that I love my job. I love teaching. I love my students. Every day is fun and exciting and meaningful – well, maybe not every day but most. However, I am also keenly aware of the privilege I have with my school and my children – my classes are small, my students (largely) well-behaved, and I have ample support and backing. None of my students comes to my room multiple grades in the red.
However, this is the ‘dream teaching job’ and I know it. Many teachers suffer through large classrooms, juvenile delinquency, absentee parents, students who speak no english, children with several learning differences, etc. At the same time, we are living in a culture that bemoans the ‘easy job’ of teachers – claiming that we don’t work in the summer (what I am doing at these conferences and prepping for a year of classes?) or their day ends at 3:00 (why was I on campus at 7, leaving at 4, and carrying about 3 hours of extra work with me?). The mythical notion that a magical teacher can waltz into the worst classroom and change the students into mathematical savants or linguistic wünderkinds is just that – a fictionalized idea. That good, even extraordinary teachers, are hindered by our environment:
To teach each child in my classroom, I have to know each child in my classroom. We teachers need to bring not only our extraordinariness but our flawed and real and ordinary humanity to this job, which involves a complex and ever-changing web of relationships with children who often need more than we can give them.
In addressing the issue of rising classroom size (in Detroi the cap will be at 60), Ellie Herman states:
Our children — even our children growing up in poverty, especially our children growing up in poverty — deserve to have not only an extraordinary teacher but a teacher who has time to read their work, to listen, to understand why they’re crying or sleeping or not doing homework.
I Highly recommend reading the whole article at the LA Times.
California is the first state in the union to add a component of gay and lesbian history to its curriculum. Advocates are hailing the decision as on par with including sections on other minorities in the curriculum (African Americans, Women, Hispanics, etc). It is also part of a core-curriculum to address bullying in the LGBTQ community.
“This is definitely a step forward, and I’m hopeful that other states will follow,” said Mark Leno, California’s first openly gay state senator, who sponsored the bill. “We are failing our students when we don’t teach them about the broad diversity of human experience.”
“There is an increasing awareness in the public and among elected officials that we have to do something to address the problems of bullying, and the negative consequences” for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students, said Carolyn Laub, director of the Gay-Straight Alliance Network.
Still, the decision is not without controversy. Opponents of the addition to the curriculum state that its furthering a ‘homosexual agenda’ in public schools and equate the curriculum change with a legislative form of morality.
“It’s a sad day for our republic when we have the government essentially telling people what they should think,” said Tim Donnelly, a Republican state assemblyman from San Bernadino. Mr. Donnelly said the law prohibited schools from presenting gays and lesbians “in anything other than a positive light, and I think that’s censorship right there.”
As an educator, I think that this is excellent news. We should broaden the perspective and experiences that we present to students as they are developing and coming up with this connected, global community. Additionally, I always find it troubling when lawmakers disagree with providing students information and allowing them to make informed decisions – I also see nothing in the curriculum that requires only ‘positive’ views of homosexual individuals who, like all human beings, are complex creatures with flaws.
To read more about this story, check out the New York Times.
The Smithsonian recently discovered previously unpublished photographs from the Scopes Monkey Trial. I recently posted an article marking the anniversary of the trial, “This Day in History – July 10” outlining the significance of the case.
You can view these photo’s on the Smithsonian’s Flickr page for free! It’s an interesting look at history.
A great blog, Once an Educator, just posted an excellent blog about the role that tablets can play in education.
In the Philippines now, there’s been talk of schools adapting the use of tablets for basic education. Tablets, being the latest “it” device, are seen as having great potential for teaching. After all, students seem to take to it very well. (On the other hand, students take to everything technology-related very well.)
In the media, however, most of the coverage about the device centers around its capacity to reduce the weight of heavy books lugged around by students. (Case in point: this news report about E-tablets replacing bulky books and this blog post about an all girls’ school in Metro Manila also exploring the use of tablets to replace their books.) In both of these reports, the tablet seems to be touted as no more than an ebook reader–place all of the textbooks in one light and nifty device. Though I’m sure we all agree that the tablet does do that, I think we need to refocus and see all the other benefits of the tablet, over and above its function as an ebook reader.
Read More Here: “Once an Educator: Better Reasons for Using Tablets in Philippine Schools“
On July 10, 1925 opening statements began in the famous “Scopes Monkey Trial.” The case, brought against High School Biology teacher John T. Scopes, brought to the forefront the issue of teaching evolution in schools. John Scopes had introduced the controversial subject in his classroom, a violation of the Tennessee Butler Act. The case caught popular attention and was headed by legal ‘superstars’ Clarence Darrow and the ACLU (for the Defense) and William Jennings Bryan (on the side of the Prosecution, serving an advisory role). The case later inspired the 1955 play (and subsequent films) “Inherit the Wind.”
The trial became a public sensation and focused less on the merits of the law and more on the issue of the role of religion (specifically Christianity) in the public realm. The drama of the case came to a high point when the defense called William Jennings Bryan himself to the stand to testify on the merits of the Biblical evidence that had been presented to the jury.
After eight days of trial, the jury took less than ten minutes to deliberate and found John Scopes ‘guilty’ of a misdemeanor violation of the Butler Act. He was fined $100 (about $1,300 in modern currency). After receiving his sentence, Scopes spoke for the first time in the case:
Your honor, I feel that I have been convicted of violating an unjust statute. I will continue in the future, as I have in the past, to oppose this law in any way I can. Any other action would be in violation of my ideal of academic freedom — that is, to teach the truth as guaranteed in our constitution, of personal and religious freedom. I think the fine is unjust
Later, the supreme court of Tennessee would set aside the conviction, not on a merit of law but on a technicality – that the jury should have determined the fine not the judge in the case. The decision also effectively quashed the life of the case and the constitutional determination of teaching evolution in classrooms. It would not be until 1968, in Epperson v. Arkansas, that the Supreme Court would address the controversial issue
It’s that time of year when many high school seniors are donning silly hats and listening to clichéd speeches about the future. They are also making decisions about whether or not to attend college. A recent survey released by PEW Research Center and the Chronicle of Higher Education has revealed some alarming information about the state of America’s colleges and the prohibitive costs of accessing the American Dream. Anyone who has gone to college in the last few decades understands the crippling cost that can accompany higher education (I for one will be paying off my loans for many, many years to come). The cost continues to rise and there is no ceiling in site. With the state of the economy, and fewer than 25% of college grads finding full-time work after graduation, legitimate questions are being raised about the cost/benefit of a college education.
Public anxiety over college costs is at an all-time high. And low-income college graduates or those burdened by student-loan debt are questioning the value of their degrees, or saying the cost of college has delayed other life decisions.
While most people cite the role of a University education is to provide a greater competitive edge in the market (with a college degree holder making on average $20,000/year). However, when questioned, most college administrators cite its role in personal and intellectual growth. A wonderful ideal, but is it worth a six figure price-tag?
There is no doubt that the American educational system is in crisis. During a budget crunch year, destroyed economy, and rising global pressures, we must re-examin the American Educational system.
Thanks to my twitter colleague @MrPotter (not of Harry Potter fame), I have come across a great infographic that demonstrates how much money the US spends on education and the type of results we get (spoiler: it’s a lot of money and not much). It truly highlights our need to look at other models for success and that the key isn’t paying teachers less or upping administrative costs. You can read the full post here U.S. Education vs. the World.
Anyone who has watched the evolution of modern education can readily note the fact that America is lagging (and has for a while) behind other countries in terms of graduating math, science, and engineering students. What is the cause of this divide? Why is America, with undoubtedly the most prestigious and accessible University system, failing miserably to educate its students in the maths and sciences?
While I by no means support the notion that there is anything ‘less’ about a degree in the Humanities (after all, my undergraduate and graduate degrees are in the Social Sciences), we cannot ignore the reality that we are losing an important segment of educated professionals that are instrumental to our success as a country.
Low graduation rates among science and math undergraduates affect how the United States competes globally. Fewer biology and math majors means fewer doctors and engineers later.
UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute (UCLA being one of my alma maters) has just published the results of a multi-year study on this very phenomenon. There are many contributing factors, namely lack of access to a good education in K-12 and ill-preparation in high school for college level math and science education.
“I think one of the most disturbing realities about the American educational system is the inequalities that exist within that system. Where you live happens to be important. What state you live in, what district within that state you live in, what school within that district you go to, even what classroom within a given school … it really matters. And what I mean by that is, you are not necessarily expected to learn the same parts of mathematics at that grade level or the same science.”
“One international study of 12th-graders found that for those students in mathematics who were at the highest level — the kids who take calculus, AP calculus or regular college-level calculus — essentially came near the bottom of the international distribution against their peers. In science and physics, we were dead last. So even those students who we think of as our absolute best are not competitive internationally.”
Another factor at the post-secondary level is that students are often not given support and direction; their classes are designed to ‘weed out’ kids who should really be offered tutoring or investment. Math and Science majors graduate in much lower numbers and over a longer number of year (5-6 years to complete an undergraduate degree compared to 4-5 years for Humanities or Arts degree). With the rising cost of college education, those two additional years can spell tens of thousands of dollars of debt.
Science and math programs are designed and taught to winnow down the number of students. University tenure systems often reward professors who conduct research and publish their work, but not those who teach well.
We in America have accepted that science is just not for everybody. We send messages to students all the time that, ‘This is not really for you,’ ” he said. “One of the reasons American (students) aren’t more excited about science is that adults themselves aren’t excited. Most (students) have been weeded out before they even get to college.”
Hrabowski said many people assume they’re not smart enough to study science or math. His response?
“No. Your teacher wasn’t innovative enough.”
Read more about the problem, new initiatives and potential solutions in this CNN article: “Why Would-Be Engineers End Up As English Majors” and “How the U.S. Lags in Math, Science Education and How It Can Catch Up.”